The first three games of the 2023 Memorial Cup championship produced 32 goals.
So when Theo Rochette of the Quebec Remparts scored 54 seconds into Monday’s fourth preliminary round game at the Sandman Centre, fans expected there’d be much more to come.
But thanks to William Rousseau’s 35 saves in the Remparts’ net, they had to wait until 16:55 of the third period for Rochette to add his second of the night — and third of the tournament — to give his Quebec Major Junior Hockey League champion squad a 2-0 lead over the Seattle Thunderbirds, en route to a 3-1 victory.
The Western Hockey League champion T-Birds, with the netminder pulled for an extra attacker, got a goal at 17:38 from Nolan Allan and pressed for the equalizer, but couldn’t tie the contest. Charles Truchon scored an empty-netter for the Remparts at 19:42 to seal the deal.
The Remparts improved their record to 2-0 in the four-team, 10-day tournament and guaranteed themselves a berth in Sunday’s championship final. The T-Birds slipped to 1-1 — the same record as the host Kamloops Blazers.
The Thunderbirds outshot the Remparts 36-22. Seattle went 0-for-2 on the power play, while the Remparts were 0-for-3.
Rochette, who has been with the Remparts for four seasons, did his best to stay calm after the important victory. He credited Patrick Roy’s coaching for leading his team to Sunday’s title game.
“He’s such a great coach. We’ve all been dreaming of getting to the final for the past two years, so we’re happy to be here and now we have a ticket to the final so we’ll try to get it (Memorial Cup),” said Rochette.
Rousseau was quick to praise his teammates for their strong defensive effort in front of him.
“Seattle is a good offensive team, but our guys sacrificed their bodies for me tonight and I think they did a really good transition game and got those big goals at the end for us.”
The Remparts play the winless Peterborough Petes on Tuesday night (9 p.m. ET). The Ontario Hockey League champion Petes, who lost their first two games of the tournament, must beat the Remparts to remain in the playoff discussion.
POKE CHECKS: The Blazers and Thunderbirds wrap up the round-robin portion of the tournament on Wednesday night when they play each other (9 p.m. ET). The T-Birds defeated the Blazers in the Western Conference final in six games.